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In the Philippines and a prominent politician has reportedly filed legislation that would look to rescind the nation’s foreign-facing online gambling licensing program and make the delivery of iGaming services a crime punishable by up to six months in prison.

According to a Monday report from the Manila Bulletin newspaper, Joel Villanueva serves as the Majority Leader for the Philippines Senate and filed his proposed Senate Bill 1281 last week amid growing alarm over crimes associated with his country’s Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) licensing program. The independent legislator purportedly declared that his measure, which is being colloquially called the Anti-Online Gambling Act, is necessary as the consequences of iGaming have recently become ‘too severe to be ignored.’

Continuing controversy:

The Philippines launched its POGO licensing regime in 2016 and went on to certify over 60 enterprises for the provision of iGaming entertainment to overseas punters before the economic slump associated with the coronavirus pandemic saw this number fall to some 26. Nevertheless, these firms have recently become increasingly associated with the practice of obtaining a low-cost workforce through the kidnapping of foreign nationals while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCor) regulator recently ‘rescued’ over 180 people who had been made to labor for little or no pay.

Prominent problems:

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In filing his legislation and Villanueva reportedly furthermore cited the case of a 19-year-old student in Davao de Oro Province who was arrested in October after running up an untenable debt of approximately $8,680 from online cock-fighting wagers, which is locally known as ‘e-sabong’. The 47-year-old legislator went on to quote the findings from a recent investigation by the Philippines Senate’s Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development Committee that the growth in POGO licenses had ‘resulted in rising criminality including prostitution and increased threat of money laundering among others.’

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Villanueva reportedly stated…

“These circumstances also show that the social cost of gambling is too high; bankruptcy, broken families and criminal activities among others.”

Dire damages:

For its part and the GMA Network Incorporated news service used a Monday report of its own to detail that Villanueva’s legislation seeks to make online gambling illegal in the Philippines while simultaneously abandoning the POGO licensing regime. Senate Bill 1281 would purportedly moreover bring in a substantial penalty regime for anyone subsequently found guilty of wagering over the Internet encompassing six-month terms in prison and fines of up to $8,600.

A statement from Villanueva reportedly read…

“This bill seeks to prohibit online gambling and the placing of wagers or bets through the Internet or any form of online gambling activities to prevent further deterioration of morals and values, encourage people to work instead of relying on a game of chance, stop addictions and save lives.”

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